Seeking a level playing field
Challenging poverty, discrimination and inequality are core elements of the ethical and professional standards underpinning modern social work. These tenets are written into the professional standards developed by our regulator: to promote human rights, value strengths, work in communities, promote social justice and reduce inequality.
For this reason, all social workers - and especially mental health social workers and approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) - should welcome the launch of the Centre for Mental Health Equality commission report.
The chief social workers office has supported the commission from the beginning. We think this is a really important and timely piece of work for our profession and for wider mental health services in England.
The commission has sought evidence of a range of inequalities in mental health and produced a series of briefings exploring what is known about their causes and how they might be reduced or eradicated.
Bringing it together
The final report brings all of this research and learning together and makes some important recommendations for government, NHS mental health trusts and local authorities.
When the commission began in 2018, we had no idea the coronavirus pandemic was going to have such a dramatic effect on our society, and especially on the mental health of the nation.
The final report considers how COVID-19 has added to the inequality in society and what can be done about it. The report also explores the effects of inequality within society and how it affects people’s mental health. This includes the experiences of Black people within the mental health system, who are more likely to face certain mental health problems and experience coercive approaches within services.
The commission report proposes that we should work together to make sure mental health services work for everyone.
The relationship with the social determinants of society and community is a major point of emphasis in this report. Access to social housing, reduction in wealth inequality, early years support, increased social mobility and the broadening of positive life opportunities can all improve our collective mental health.
The Equality Commission report provides a range of positive options for improvement, proposing that organisations such as council and MH Trusts act as anchor organisations and work to escalate issues that improve equality and reduce inequality.
This template and the report’s recommendations provide a clear and robust structure for social work leaders in local authorities and mental health trusts to develop a consistent approach to reducing mental health inequality. This is something social work can undertake in partnership with local communities and partner organisations to help make inequality the exception not the norm..